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12 Feb 2015

Pitching Your Indie Game To The Press

One of the hardest things about being an indie developer is figuring out the art of pitching. We are obviously not talking about exercising your pitching arm and learning how to throw a mad curveball. On the contrary: today we are going to be talking about how to throw mad pitches – and hopefully, our advice will not leave you receiving a curveball of your own by way of a publication ignoring/rejecting your proposal to provide your indie game with coverage.

That joke was a bit of a stretch, wasn’t it? At any rate, it is crucial that you understand how to pitch your indie game to the media. It is one of the skills you need to hone in order to find success. Follow our advice below. While we cannot guarantee that a publication is going to agree to cover your indie game overnight, our tips will dramatically improve the odds of getting coverage.

Find suitable publications

No publication is created equally. Some cover PC games, some primarily mobile games, and some even cover only adventure games. Others (like your GameSpots, IGNs, etc.) cover primarily AAA titles with a few indie games here and there. Every publication is different, and it is important that you find the proper publications to getting ready to pitch your indie game.

Far too often, indie developers are perfectly fine with sending 100 emails to random publications in hopes that a few of them will provide coverage or even opt to review the game. This is not the proper way to do things; in fact, you may be hurting your chances at getting the most coverage possible. I can attest to this. I have been covering gaming news – both as a writer and editor – for years. These publications have never been big names in gaming journalism, but even so I constantly receive emails inquiring if I can cover a developer’s game.

Some of these emails are from inventors that want me to showcase their toys or from app developers wanting me to write about a non-gaming app. The problem is these individuals are asking me to write about it on a video game publication. Because I get so many emails every day, I unfortunately have to ignore these people.

Think about the editors at some of the largest videogame publications in the world. Can you imagine how much email those guys receive? It’s a lot, and I guarantee whenever they receive inquiries about getting coverage for a non-gaming anything, those people are usually ignored going forward.

It may sound harsh, but it is the reality of the business. So many parties want their videogame covered that press really doesn’t have time to deal with pitches that that do not catch their attention. That is really the thesis statement for today’s post: properly pitching your indie game to the media begins with catching their attention.

Don’t aim solely for the top

I have spoken with quite a few indie developers over the years, and always enjoy them how coverage for their game is going. Too often, devs have told me that they have only pitched to the top publications and are fine with stopping there. Not only is this foolish, but even if a top publication covers the indie game, that probably is not going to affect sales very well. Besides, the audience of nearly every top publication primarily cares about AAA games! Aiming for the top isn’t always the best course of action.

Instead, pitch your indie game to a wide array of publications. Focus on the blogs that only cover indie games, or better yet? Pitch your game to various ‘Let’s Play’ YouTubers. Scatter your pitches rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket.

Attention-grabbing subject lines

After finding places to pitch to, you need to begin crafting your pitch. This begins with an enticing subject line. The subject line is literally the gatekeeper to the rest of your pitch. If the receiver is bored by the subject line, I can almost guarantee you they are going to delete your message and never give it another thought. Read our posts on writing compelling subject lines to better understand how to pull this off every time.

Press releases

Writing press releases can be tricky if you do not know what you’re doing. If you feel intimidated, I suggest that you hire someone to write your press release. It takes out a lot of the headache, hiring someone to do this is usually pretty inexpensive, and they will do a better job than you; no offense of course.

If you want to do this yourself, we wrote a post detailing the best way to write a press release. Just be sure to include a sizzling headline, a to the point tagline that acts as an extension to the headline, and an opening paragraph that will force the reader to continue reading throughout the rest of the press release.

Be sure to keep the press release short (I keep mine below 250 words), mention what the game is all about, include contact information, and add a few screenshots (or a link to an FTP server that can contains your screenshots – whichever you prefer).

Press kits?

I firmly believe that press kits can mean the difference between getting coverage and getting none. We’ve covered creating a press kit in the modern age, but I still think there is room for physical press kits; mainly because nobody uses them anymore. If you want to grab the attention of a publication and you know their mailing address, consider creating a physical press kit.

Physical press kits still work – believe me, somebody sent me one a few years ago. Somehow, an indie developer found my home address (which is kind of creepy) and began sending me physical press kits to promote their next game. Every time they would send one of these things, it would only be a postcard with a phrase that didn’t make sense. At the bottom of each postcard was a release date, but that didn’t include any more information about who they were, their game, or why I should care. I’ll give it to the devs: it was a very clever way to market their game – and I probably would have given them some coverage if I even knew who they were! Learn from those guys’ mistake: feel free to send the physical press kit, but make sure you include relevant information about the game.

Remember: press rarely = profit

Too often, indie developers believe that press coverage and nothing more will make all the difference in making 1 million and making nothing. That simply isn’t the case. Pitching your indie game to the press is just one of the many marketing tools that you need to be using as you try to grow the awareness of your indie game and studio as a whole.

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